From Harlem's ballrooms at age 13, to the elite Whitey's Lindy Hoppers as a dancer and choreographer, Frankie Manning has always been a major force behind the development of the dance that is truly an American art form. He is credited with not only creating the first airstep, but also the first ensemble Lindy Hop routine.
Born in 1914, Frankie lived in Florida until the age of 3, at which time his mother brought him to Harlem, the birthplace of the Lindy. Growing up in the midst of this Swing Era playground, Frankie found he was part of a group of dedicated dancers that was to inspire the dancing and music of the 1930's and 40's. Based at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, Frankie took his talent on the road as a dancer and chief choreographer for Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. He performed in several films including Everybody Sings with Judy Garland and Hellzapoppin', then went on to tour the world with jazz greats Ethel Waters, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Cab Calloway, among others. While dancing in London in 1937, Frankie gave a command performance for King George VI. In 1941, Frankie "Musclehead" Manning was featured in a Life magazine article that chronicled the evolution of the Lindy.
In 1986, with the resurgence of swing dancing, Frankie emerged from his 30-year stint at the Post Office to lead a new breed of Jitterbugs. This renewed interest in the Lindy Hop has set Frankie globetrotting once again, spreading his own brand of dance magic through workshops and lectures.
Frankie's fabulous dancing and radiant smile have served as inspiration to generations of Lindy Hop enthusiasts, but modestly he claims, "I'm not interested in fame and glory, it's just that I would like others to know what a happy dance this is."
Frankie passed away on April 27, 2009. We are lucky for the years that Frankie joined us to share his love of swing.